A locally famous shadow perpetuates the legend of the Ghost Rider. The shadow appears on the south side of Mount Hosmer in the evening light of midsummer on the cliffs high above the city. The Ghost Rider shadow resembles a horse and rider with someone walking beside the horse.
The legend arose after the prospector William Fernie came to the Elk River valley. Apparently, Fernie saw the daughter of the chief of the local Native people wearing beads of coal. He demanded the people show him where they found the valuable substance. They agreed to show him only if he promised to marry the chief’s daughter. Yet after obtaining access to the coal source, Fernie refused to marry the woman.
The Natives avenged the fraud and put a curse on the valley. The curse was supposedly responsible for the floods, fires and coal-mining disasters that have since haunted the city of Fernie.
When the sun declines in the western sky, the shadow of the Ghost Rider reminds people of the power of a promise and the strength of a betrayal.
Since the curse was decreed on Fernie, the city has had fires, floods and disasters. The worst was in August 1908, when a forest fire almost destroyed the city. The city was rebuilt with expensive brick and stone instead of common wood, and today Fernie is proud of its dozens of beautiful heritage brick buildings.
In 1964 the chief of the Kootenai Nation performed a ceremony to lift the curse, and today Fernie is a growing recreational and tourist centre for the southern BC Rockies.
The Ghost Rider trail is an enjoyable day hike for most hikers. It is a good steep hike up the south side of Mount Hosmer to the ridge overlooking the cliffs where the Ghost Rider shadow appears. The trail is in good condition, except when wet. Then, it is extremely slick and muddy.
The best part of the hike is from the pass through sparse forest and meadows to the wide ridge and overlook. The overlook features views of Fernie and the Elk Valley sprawling out to the south. On the western skyline rise Three Sisters Mountain and Mount Bisaro. From the ridge overlook, the trail continues to Ghost Rider summit at 2316 m (7,600 ft.).
Half the trail is in dense forest and the upper sections are through meadows, with small, steep portions of open alpine rubble. Occasional clumps of wildflowers dot the open slopes with colour. Arnica, Indian paintbrush and the purple silky phacelia are common summertime flowers along the trail.
Ghost Rider summit is just a ripple along the south ridge of the stark and jagged Mount Hosmer, which rises to 2500 m (8,221 ft.). Climbing Mount Hosmer is a much more rugged hike. It is rocky rough route and most hikers don’t go beyond the summit of Ghost Rider trail.